Crinan, Argyll The heart of a charming West Highland community
ELEVEN kilometres (seven miles) from Lochgilphead, on roads getting smaller by the minute, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Crinan.
The village lies in Knapdale, looking out across Loch Crinan to Jura. The Crinan Canal connecting Loch Fyne to the sealoch is still popular with yachts, but its days as a bustling freight route are over.
A right-turn led me on a single-track road. At its end I half-expected to find a tired, run-down old village without much to write home about. This, I was pleased to discover, couldn’t have been further from the truth.
There’s a buzz about Crinan. The coffee shop was full of families chatting, and strangers smiled “hello” on the canal paths. The warm sense of community is palpable, and at the heart of that community is the Crinan Hotel.
Nick and Frances Ryan bought the hotel 48 years ago, and built it up to a fine standard. In fact, Nick won Hotelier of the Year in 1999. Today, the Crinan Hotel boasts 20 rooms, a Seafood Bar, Michelin Plate-awarded Westward Restaurant, General’s Bar, gallery, craft shop and rooftop restaurant Lock 16.
Nick sadly passed away earlier this year, but Frances still runs the hotel with the help of her friendly staff. She is also an accomplished artist under her maiden name of Frances Macdonald, and you can see some of her work in the gallery.
She individually designed all of the hotel’s rooms, paying homage to different Scottish artists.
My room had a superking-size bed with white Egyptian cotton bedding, and a bathroom stocked with Arran Aromatics. The wide bay windows looked out to sea, with a perfect view of one of the hotel’s finest assets – restored teak motorboat, the Sgarbh.
Skippered by Nick and Frances’s son Ross Ryan, the Sgarbh runs short trips out to nearby islands, with seafood lunches provided. It also runs popular distillery tours to Oban, Jura and Islay, or you can charter your own expedition.
The hotel also offers a painting expedition following the Scottish Colourist trail out to Iona. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to take advantage of the trips, but simply viewing the Sgarbh bobbing in the water outside my hotel window was a delight.
The Westward Restaurant offers gourmet dining, with a mouthwatering menu of seven courses for £49.50. The scallop roe chowder sounded sensational, but I’d had a long day in the
The hotel boasts commanding views over the Sound of Jura